Olympic skeleton team accused of cheating

The German skeleton team on Wednesday rejected cheating accusations from their Canadian rivals as a row erupted in the lead-up to the Winter Olympics.

Olympic skeleton team accused of cheating
Germany's Frank Rommel in a file photo. Photo: DPA

The heats for the men’s event begin on February 18 at The Whistler Sliding Centre in Vancouver, but the Canadians have already turned up the heat by claiming the Germans are using a magnetic component on their sleds to create an unfair advantage.

Germany’s Frank Rommel and Sandro Stielicke were ranked second and third respectively in this winter’s World Cup series. Now their rival Jeff Pain, who took silver in Turin four years ago in a Canadian 1-2, has questioned whether their teams’ sleds are legitimate.

But the Germans insisted their equipment had been checked by the Materials Committee of the sport’s governing body FIBT (International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation) and there has never been a problem.

“The German team have been tested the most this winter by the authorities,” said team spokeswoman Margit Denglar-Paar with their six skeleton athletes – three male, three female – set to arrive here on Thursday. “They ran through the whole World Cup season with no problem. Pain questions the sled, but the testers have never said there are any problems with any of our sleds.”

Pain had earlier ignited the row.

“I know for a fact (the German team) have a magnetic component in their sleds and I question whether that’s legal,” Pain, who is currently ranked 10th in the world, told a press conference here. “I don’t know 100 percent how they use it. My belief is they are creating a magnetic field that provides damping, like shock absorbing. It’s right around the runner posts and I don’t know what it’s there for,

but it’s there for a reason. They wouldn’t put there if it didn’t do anything. If you read the rules it says you can’t have a magnetic field. ”

The German sleds are worrying the Canadians as Pain’s team-mate Jon Montgomery admitted.

“At this point, I believe we are behind the game a bit … I suspect (the Germans sleds) are completely legal – just superior in technology,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the difference between winning and losing, but (the Germans) will be a definite force to be reckoned with here. We’re going to have to work hard to take their medals from them.”

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Germany’s Buchenwald camp calls out ‘disrespectful’ sleddding at site

The German memorial at former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald Thursday demanded an end to visitors playing winter sports at the site, after some were even spotted sledging at its mass graves.

Germany's Buchenwald camp calls out 'disrespectful' sleddding at site
The former Buchenwald concentration camp pictured in July 2020. Photo: DPA

Criticising “disrespectful” behaviour, the foundation asked guests to refrain from leisure pastimes at Buchenwald and the former subcamp Mittelbau-Dora in eastern Germany.

“Sporting activities are a violation of visitor rules and disturb the peace of the dead,” it said in a statement, warning that its security staff would be stepping up patrols and trespassers would be reported to the police.

The director of the foundation, Jens-Christian Wagner, told news website Der Spiegel that “masses” of daytrippers had gathered at the site over the weekend and most seemed to have come for fun in the snow.

“Some of the sledge tracks ended at the mass graves,” he said.

Wagner said he could understand that many families with children wanted to spend time outside, particularly during a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus, but that the memorial expected appropriate behaviour from its visitors.

“As time passes, historical sensitivity is fading,” he said.

More than 76,000 men, women and children died at Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora during World War II. They were either killed by the Nazis or perished through illness, cold or starvation.

Thousands of Jews were among the dead, but also Roma, gypsies and political opponents of the Nazis, gays and Soviet prisoners of war.

Last January the then head of the Buchenwald foundation, Volkhard Knigge, warned that unwanted visits from neo-Nazis were becoming an increasing problem ahead of the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation.

“We increasingly find messages in the guest book claiming that Nazism and the concentration camps were sensible and good for the Germans,” he told German media.